Unusual meter mix-up leads to shocking bill for Alberta man

Click to play video: 'Meter mix-up results in costly bill for Alberta man' Meter mix-up results in costly bill for Alberta man
WATCH: A meter mix-up at a home in Airdrie, Alta., years ago now has a Calgary man paying the price. Tomasia DaSilva explains what happened and why he is on the hook for thousands of dollars – Feb 10, 2022

High utility bills are the norm for many Albertans these days, but a Calgary man’s November bill gave him a huge jolt.

“I was just shocked,” Laurie Richards told Global News. “It came out to almost $4,000 worth of charges.”

Richards scanned his statement trying to figure out where the charges originated and eventually reached out to retailer ATCOenergy and distributor FortisAlberta.

“They figured out there was a meter crossing, some mistake during the build, like four years ago,” he said.

“I was paying somebody else’s bill and being undercharged for my three-and-a-half years there and now they want me to make up the difference.”

Laurie Richards looks over a shocking utility bill. Global Calgary

Richards said he is no longer living in the townhome in Airdrie and questioned why he is on the hook.

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“It wasn’t my mistake'” he said. “The mistake was someone else’s four years ago.

“They built the house, they wired it incorrectly. I feel it wasn’t my mistake so it shouldn’t be my responsibility.”

Read more: Water meter mix-up leads to costly bill for Calgary family

ATCOenergy told Global News that unfortunately it is Richards’ responsibility.

The company said it relies on the distributor — in this case FortisAlberta — to provide accurate usage information from the customer’s meter and if there is an error, the distributor will adjust and send a corrected amount to be collected through the retailer — in this case ATCOenergy.

“Our investigation showed that this customer had been underbilled, and the correction reflected the actual amount of energy used,” the company said in a statement.

The company added it worked hard to come to a compromise with Richards.

“Even though the error was out of our control, we reached an agreement with this customer in good faith through the Utilities Consumer Advocate, waiving a portion of the fees, extending the payment terms and offering a sizable credit.”

Richards said that credit was about $100, although ATCO disputed it was more.

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FortisAlberta confirmed there had in fact been an error when the meters were installed at Richards’ original home.

However, the company told Global News that even though “the meters were incorrectly wired, they were working as they should and accurately measured consumption, albeit for the wrong residence.”

FortisAlberta added that once Richards made it aware of the issue, it returned to the site and corrected the problem.

Read more: Electricity bills on the rise in Calgary after ‘significant’ increase in demand

Richards questioned how any company could go back years to recoup money lost, adding the two companies should have to take some responsibility.

As for his responsibility noticing and flagging the low usage amounts on his bill — “I’ve never studied bills that closely to know how much kilowatt hours I’m using,” he responded.

“I sort of took it as gospel that what they’re billing me is what I’ve used and I paid faithfully.”

Richards now has to pay the amount — albeit in installments — which he said will be hard to do.

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“Do I have almost $4,000 sitting around in my account? No I don’t! Absolutely not.”
Calgary man receives shocking utility bill due to meter mix-up. Global Calgary

Global News asked ATCOenergy if the other person who paid for Richards’ energy consumption had received a refund.

We were told they couldn’t speak to the specifics but in general, “the distributor would have sent that person’s retailer a cancel/rebill to correct the mistake at the same time they sent us a correction for this customer. So the other person would have been credited for the overage.”

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